An American in Ireland: Preface

On June 23rd, 2017, I landed for the first time in Dublin, Ireland, to live here with my family. This sub-blog is about my experiences living as an American in Ireland.

If you’re interested in learning more about my life as an expat in Ireland, welcome! However, it’s probably best to set a few ground rules for my upcoming posts.

  1. Currently we live in Maynooth, County Kildare, Ireland. It’s a university town with a large transient population. This will naturally color my experiences.
  2. I’ll often use “Ireland” as shorthand for “my experience thus far with this part of Ireland.” It’s not intended to imply that my experience is completely correct, nor should it indicate that things are the same across the entire country.
  3. I’m going to get things wrong. Please don’t assume ill intent if I make a mistake — I’m always willing to learn new things!
  4. As part of the “Americans getting things wrong” portion, non-European readers should know that Ireland is not part of the UK. You might be thinking of Northern Ireland. This is an important thing to get right.
  5. I’m going to compare my experience living in America with my experience living here. There will likely be value judgements. That isn’t to say that one country or the other is objectively better at something (unless I explicitly say that). Rather, I’m just comparing what I prefer. You might disagree!

I’ll update as the muse takes me. If there’s something in particular you’d like to know about, let me know and I’ll see if I can scrounge up a post about it!

June Update

Not a lot to update this month, for three big reasons.

Ireland

I’m getting very close to the move, so naturally things are hectic and busy. My wife is already over there to nail down housing and immediate needs, while I stay behind to handle last-minute tasks here at home, as well as Murray the Pug’s health screen and flight process. Once I fly over there (on the 15th), I’ll be settling in and catching up on things.

I’m actually considering converting a portion of this blog over to talking about what it’s like to be an American expat living in Ireland, particularly from a freelance/game designer perspective. If this is something you’d be interested in, let me know!

Monarchies of Mau

The second reason is that we’re in the middle of the Monarchies of Mau Kickstarter, the second game in the world of Pugmire. At the time of this writing we’re over $92,000, and there are still some prime backer slots available. Check it out!

Non-Disclosure Agreements

I’m also working on something like five or six other things that I just can’t talk about yet. It seems there’s a cycle of these things — I do a lot of work I can’t talk about, and then a bunch of things all get released at around the same time. I’m deep in the “working hard on things” stage, which seems like nothing’s going on. But hopefully some of these projects will reach the light of day soon!

May Update

Things have been getting steadily busier for me. But I still have a little time for a quick update!

Moving to Ireland

The move continues forward. Getting rid of excess stuff, selling our house, arranging transport for Prince Murray Pug of Pugmire, and consulting with experts about what business actions I need to be taking… there’s a lot left to do! Right now I’m looking at mid-June for the real move, but there are plenty of things my family and I need to handle in the meantime.

The whole situation is stressful, but I’m slowly moving from “anxiety” to “excited.” There’s still plenty that could go wrong, but I’m looking forward to living in a different country, and all the opportunities (and challenges!) that brings. Of course I’ll miss all the friends and contacts I’ve made here over the years, but I really do think this is a great next chapter for everyone in our family.

Pugsteady

I’m still deep in the research/exploration phase of things, but signs still point to me being able to run Pugsteady much as I already have. There may be some value in opening a “Pugsteady Ireland” branch, but it really does look like I’ll just have to handle a little paperwork to keep doing what I’m doing. And I may not even need to do any of it right away.

Further, I’ve managed to pick up some steady contract work for a while. Having a regular income will be really helpful for a while as we settle in. I’ve also got some more one-off contracts since I last posted, which are always exciting. And that’s all outside of an upcoming Kickstarter!

Monarchies of Mau

Yes, the next step in the world of Pugmire is on the horizon. Hopefully very soon will be the launch of the Kickstarter for Monarchies of Mau, the companion line for Pugmire. This is more than just an add-on to play cats in a dog’s world — it’s a whole new brand that co-exists with Pugmire but has its own style and direction. If you love cats and you love Pugmire, I’m hoping you’ll really love Monarchies of Mau!

Once it’s live, I’ll post it everywhere I can, so you won’t miss out. I’m also partnering with some blogs and other media outlets so we can make a huge splash on day one. If you’re a blogger or reporter and want to get involved with the pre-launch blitz, let me know!

ECGC

Earlier in the month I went to the East Coast Game Conference. Last year I really enjoyed going, and this year was no different. It was great to hang out with old friends and meet some new ones. Further, my talk about audio design for people with hearing loss went over much better than I expected (feared), and led to some great side conversations with some passionate and excited audio people. It was a great time, and I hope I can go in future years (although maybe not as often, travel permitting).

In the aftermath of the show, I have thought more about how to increase visibility of hearing loss in fiction and entertainment media. Nothing is fully formed in my mind yet, but I think this is a topic I’ll be focusing more on over the next few years. (Which reminds me, I should probably look into Irish advocacy groups for those who are hard of hearing.)

What Do You Want To Hear About?

Is there something in particular you want to hear about? Leave a comment or use my contact form, and I’ll consider it for my next post!

April Update

Last month I mentioned that there was a lot of awesome stuff happening, but I couldn’t share much of it. Well, some things have shifted, so I can start talking about some of it.

Moving to Ireland

This is one of the biggest ones. My family and I are moving to Dublin, Ireland in a couple of months! It’s been a family goal to move overseas for over a decade now, and the move finally makes financial and logistical sense for us. I’ll be a big ball of anxiety for a while, including where Pugsteady is going.

Pugsteady

Luckily, all my initial research seems to show that I can continue working as Pugsteady. I have appointments with my lawyer and my accountant to discuss the details and ramifications, but thus far it looks more like making sure I file the correct paperwork and not being unable to run as before. I am looking for steadier (contract) work, admittedly, as having a stable income while we settle in a new country would be supremely helpful. Further, Ireland has a tax exemption for artists, which could be a huge help!

In the meantime, however, I do have a few non-Pugmire projects I’m working on at the moment. So I’m certainly staying busy!

Conventions

The downside of the move is that, between needing to be more frugal with my finances as well as general uncertainty about my living conditions, I’ve scaled back on my convention travel. But I haven’t eliminated it!

  • I’m confirmed to speak at ECGC in Raleigh, NC on Wed, April 19th. My talk is called “I Didn’t Catch That,” about designing audio for people who are hard of hearing.
  • I’ll also be at Gen Con 50, promoting the hell out of Pugmire and Monarchies of Mau. I didn’t apply for the industry insider track this year (wasn’t sure I was going to be able to make it when the deadline rolled around), but I’ll certainly be busy demoing the games and talking them up! I’ll likely be on some panels as well.
  • A couple other events are still being discussed. Also, Europe has a ton of great conventions I’ve never attended, so I’m hoping to get involved with some of them as well!

Pugmire

Some exciting updates on the Pugmire front — keep an eye out for the Kickstarter update coming soon. There will also be an update from Earplay as well!

What Do You Want To Hear About?

Is there something in particular you want to hear about? Leave a comment or use my contact form, and I’ll consider it for my next post!

March Update

February has been one of those months where a lot of awesome things happened, but there’s not much I can share. But still, I’ll update what I can!

Pugsteady

One truism about the freelance lifestyle is that things are rarely steady. Granted, I got spoiled for close to a year, but last month I was hitting a bit of a drought. Now I’m back on top of things, and some of the upcoming opportunities might even turn into actual working-as-an-employee-to-another-company work! It helps that I have some really great friends with the means and opportunity to get me involved in some amazing projects. On top of it all, I’m going through a life change that’s exciting and scary. It’s all hush-hush at the moment, and there’s certainly still a lot of Pugmire stuff on my plate, but potentially some very cool things are happening!

Pugmire

The Kickstarter backer PDF went out, and I got some great errata. It turns out I was nervous for nothing — everyone seems to be really enjoying it, and the errata were relatively minor.

Monarchies of Mau Early Access manuscript went to layout and art direction, so we’re in the midst of discussing cat art and look. Now that the text of the book is locked down, we’re also moving on ancillary products, like dice, Guide screens, and cards. It’s great to see progress!

What Do You Want To Hear About?

That’s honestly all I can talk about at the moment, but hopefully I can discuss more next month, since some things are on the cusp of being out there to discuss! Is there something in particular you want to hear about? Leave a comment or use my contact form, and I’ll consider it for my next post!

February Update

My, how time flies. Looks like it’s already time for another update!

Pugsteady

For those who are fans of process, moving to 15-day sprints seems to be helping. When I break down tasks to the smallest amount, it takes up a lot of planning space, and a month is just too much to wrap my head around. I think I’m going to let this sprint go long and switch to two-week sprints (so, planning from Monday to Friday instead of when the 1st of the month happens to land), but all in all this chance worked out well for me.

Of course, part of the reason is that my workload has finally eased up for the first time in over a year. I’d gotten so used to having steady work that it’s a bit weird not being swamped. That doesn’t mean I don’t have any work — Pugmire and related projects in particular are taking up a fair bit of my time — but it does mean I’m back to checking with old clients for new work, as well as making connections with new clients. If you know of someone who could make use of my services, point them to pugsteady.com!

Pugmire

The book is proofed, and ready for Kickstarter backers to receive! Tomorrow the various backers will get access to the next-to-final version of Pugmire. Naturally, I’m a bit nervous, because this will be the first time that the book is actually out there in a complete state. However, I’m really happy with what the team has done with the book, and I hope that the majority of Pugmire fans will be happy with the product.

Meanwhile, I’ve been focused on Monarchies of Mau, and I’m hoping to have a complete manuscript of Monarchies of Mau Early Access by the end of the month. I’m also offering my two cents to both the anthology (tentatively titled Tales of Good Dogs) and the introductory adventure (Pan’s Guide for New Pioneers), but the developers in charge of each of those projects are doing a great job keeping things afloat.

Earplay

Recording for the Pugmire Earplay (titled Friends and Enemies) is done! The actors were all great, and very efficient. Plus the composition for the project is also done, and sounds wonderful. What that means is that we have a lot of audio files that need to be cleaned up and compiled before it’s all put into the software, so there’s still a bit of a long haul ahead of us. But all in all, I’m pleased with how its shaping up.

Sherlock Holmes

No, I haven’t seen the latest season of Sherlock yet, but I’ve heard decidedly mixed reviews. Odds are good I’ll watch it — I’m obsessed with Holmes, after all — but I admit this is the first season I’m not really excited for. I am hoping that the latest season of Elementary wraps up soon so it’ll drop on Hulu and I can catch up!

Meanwhile, I’ve read through most of the backlog of Holmes books I got for the holidays, and I must admit that the Laurie King/Leslie Klinger anthologies have been really good. It’s a wide grab bag of Holmes-related short stories and media, but usually there’s always a few stories that fall flat in most anthologies. But not these — every story has gripped me so far, even the really far-out ones.

What Do You Want To Hear About?

Is there something in particular you want to hear about? Leave a comment or use my contact form, and I’ll consider it for my next post!

Red Shoelaces

I was born in 1974 in a poor city in northern Ohio. (Don’t worry, I’m not going to regale you with my whole life story. But circumstance and environment shape perspective, so I ask for your indulgence). My developmental years fall in the 1980s and early 1990s. It featured concerns (and the eventual decline) of nuclear fear, the Cold War, and the twin god-emperors of Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher. I was angry and attracted to rebellion, but I was a hearing impaired, socially awkward nerd without access to nightclubs or musical friends. As a result, I wasn’t shaped by one musical movement, so I sampled from anything I could find. I listened to heavy metal and hardcore hip-hop before finding inspiration from bootleg punk cassettes. The rough lyrics and basic chords tunneled through my thick hearing and seared my heart.

When I went to college and got access to real subcultures, I dyed my hair sea-foam green in time for punk to evolve away from me. All my friends wore black, Victorian clothes, which appealed to my secret love of the literature but made me feel awkward and ugly. I grew to love Vampire: The Masquerade and became part of a massive live-action game on the campus of the University of Akron. But even then, the Brujah and the Anarchs spoke to me, the last gasp of old-school punk in a growing crowd of pale and sexy people.

As I embraced my outdated aesthetic, I clung to Vampire‘s self-applied model of Gothic-Punk, and saw punk all around me. Again, I lived in Ohio, which did not have a thriving underground scene (or at least, not one I was invited to), but the media I consumed filled the void. Judge Dredd comics and Doctor Who episodes smuggled from friends in the UK. Hellblazer comics bought when I could afford them. Games of Cyberpunk and Kult played when we could find time. I sought out anything that felt punk to me.

And that’s when I met my first neo-Nazi, around 1994. And he terrified me. I remember swastikas tattooed all over his head, and the red shoelaces on his boots. In fact, he’s the one who explained the red shoelaces to me. It was a badge of pride, which became a warning as I refused to speak out against my friends of the “mongrel races.” If I ever saw anyone with red shoelaces, he explained, that person would hurt me as a traitor to my race. He told me to reconsider.

I was scared and angry, and in my head, I wanted to punch him back, punch him first, do something to get him to stop saying such horrible things. What I did was shake my head, refusing his bile, and then I hurried away. My whole body shook uncontrollably as I called the police and babbled incoherently before hanging up. I stayed to clubs and houses that firmly excluded neo-Nazis, and a few times I was the person who acted as lookout while my friends threw the punches I never had the nerve to throw.

After that, I had bigger concerns: I flunked out of college and looked for a job to pay for rent in a barely furnished house. But I let my hair grow out, ditched my leather jacket, and steered clear of people with red shoelaces in their boots. All my punk trappings became a costume for my character, not a part of me anymore, because I betrayed them. I had my first chance to throw a punch against tyranny, and I had failed.

Fast-forward to the 21st century. Over the years I’ve reincorporated bits of my old punk persona back into my life. As I gain more experience and access things on the Internet I never saw before, I’ve come to understand what I was actually chasing. I became an archaeologist of my youth, uncovering the connections and threads that got lost in fear and awkward Midwestern understanding. I discovered that while I had used the word “punk” as a hammer for every nail of “thing that spoke to me,” I wasn’t entirely off-base. If I had closer contacts to groups like the straight edge movement or antifa punks, I probably would have had a clearer path, and a better outlet for the anger and terror of my youth. When I got a chance to work on Vampire, I channeled that old-school punk voice because I felt it was lost under the polished, darkly erotic surface. I dropped “punk” as an exclusive term in describing myself, and instead made it part of my personal gestalt.

In recent months, I’ve been reminded of those formative years again. It felt like a second chance for me to reclaim discarded punk mantle and vindicate my past self-treachery. Neo-nazis weren’t something from World War II; they were a terror from my past, an evil I could slay now that I was older and wiser. Surely, I could finally punch a Nazi.

I learned that an alt-right rally was scheduled to take place less than an hour from my house, and I was filled with an old, familiar terror. I found myself glancing at a stranger’s boots once, checking his shoelaces.  I didn’t know what to do, and social media shouted about punching Nazis and not punching Nazis. I never had much of a punk scene in my life, so I went back to the scene I had constructed for myself: the TV shows and comics and books that influenced me.

I started from first principles, and I discovered all the things I ham-fistededly collated as part of the same movement had two things in common. They all had a sense of humor and a lingering sense that everything would work out in the end. The anger and violence (both physical and social) was there, but they could be directed to a purpose. The Doctor didn’t use violence, but he still stood up against fascists, angrily pointing out how ludicrous they were. John Constantine was an asshole, but he was an asshole that used his brain. As I move outside the punk sphere, most of my heroes used intelligence and conversation as much or more than violence: Sherlock Holmes, the Fantastic Four, Captain Kirk, Ford Prefect, and so on. While I had obsessed over the trappings, I had missed the result that not everyone who fought racists and fascism used a fist and a broken bottle. Some people rebelled through a loud scream, an angry satire, or a damning put-down, and not all conversation is about conciliation. In the end, I would never be Sid Vicious, but I could be Tom Baker’s Doctor. (Or, to steal the language of Vampire, I wasn’t a Potence Brujah, but I could be a Presence Brujah.)

My life is now based around words. They’re my weapons, my shield, my livelihood, and my obsession. Sometimes I tell my own stories, and sometimes I help others tell stories to each other, but this is who I am and what I do. Just because my hands shake from fear and adrenaline doesn’t mean I won’t stand up against what I think is wrong. Some days my words are careful and considered, and others they’re a jumbled mess of passion and anger. I know now that I didn’t fail when I refused to punch that neo-Nazi; I had succeeded when I refused to bow to his hateful rhetoric. I didn’t punch someone in the face, but that doesn’t mean I didn’t stand and fight. And now I know that not everyone with red shoelaces is going to hurt me.

Writer. Gamer. Sherlockian. Usually Not Dead.

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